Against the Bomb: The British Peace Movement, 1958-1965

By Richard Taylor | Go to book overview

1
CND IN EMBRYO
The National Council for the Abolition of
Nuclear Weapons Tests

THE Nuclear Disarmament Movement had diverse roots. Radical pacifism was of central importance; and, to a much lesser degree, the extra-parliamentary left had its distinctive role.1 The 'orthodox' mainstream of the Movement, however, originated elsewhere. To some extent the impetus for opposition to nuclear weapons came from the Labour Movement, as the creation in July 1957 of the Hydrogen Bomb Campaign Committee signified.2 It was, however, from the outset the reflex action of the formal (and, especially, the parliamentary) Labour Movement in response to the widespread surge of popular protest against nuclear weapons. The Committee never had the grass-roots support of 'ordinary people', outside the orthodox political party activists, which was later to characterize CND.

There were, however, genuinely popular, though very much minority, movements of protest against nuclear weapons and their testing which arose in 1957, largely outside the Labour Movement. One of these, the Direct Action Committee, had its origins within the pacifist movement and is discussed in detail in Chapter 4. The other, the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Tests (NCANWT), was the principal forerunner of CND itself in both organizational and ideological terms, and is the subject of this chapter.

The NCANWT had its origins in the Golders Green and Suburb

____________________
1
See chs. 4, 5, 7.
2
The Hydrogen Bomb Campaign Committee was a creation of the Labour left, and had as its objective the adoption by the Labour Party of a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Among the 30 or so MPs giving their support were Frank Allaun, Emrys Hughes, Fenner Brockway, and Konni Zilliacus. There was considerable constituency support and, in Sept. 1957, a demonstration of approximately 4,000 in Trafalgar Square. However, with Bevan's disavowal of unilateralism at the 1957 Party conference, the Campaign disintegrated, and it disbanded in 1958, merging into CND to become, subsequently, the Labour Advisory Committee.

-5-

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